Montpelier is an area just north of Bristol’s city centre that is well known for its bohemian vibe. In fact, in February 2018, it was named the hippest area in the UK by TravelSupermarket.
It is a wonderful area to visit or to live in Bristol, and it has its own distinct feel with its beautiful terraced houses, many of which are painted in pastel colours. As such, Montpelier is a decidedly cool residential area that is a popular choice when it comes to choosing a location to live in Bristol.
Montpelier Location in Bristol
St Werburgh’s is the area just to the east of Montpelier, with the suburb of St Andrew’s to the North. The western boundary of Montpelier is Cheltenham Road, and Sussex Place marks its eastern boundary. Ashley Road and St Andrew’s Road mark its southerly and northerly boundaries respectively.
Montpelier is located just north of Bristol city centre, making it very easy to travel to the centre by bus, bike or car. Montpelier has its own railway station on the northern border just off Cromwell Road, making commuting outside of the city easy.
Montpelier also enjoys easy access to the M32 and the A38, so you can get in and out of the city quickly.
The History of Montpelier
Why Montpelier has this name is a mystery. It suggests a connection with the city of Montpellier in Southern France, but there is no known connection between the two places.
Its bohemian roots go back to the 18th century. During this time, people used to leave the city of Bristol and travel to Montpelier to bathe in its ponds. Local man Thomas Rennison saw an opportunity, and established Rennison’s Grand Pleasure Baths.
This consisted of baths, tea gardens and a tavern called the Old England, which is still going strong to this day. It became a place of freedom, fun and the occasional wild party where people could go to escape for a while.
The unique vibe has remained until this day, and Montpelier still has a reputation as one of the more bohemian areas of Bristol. You will notice this when walking around and enjoying the street art, coffee shops, cafes and bars.
One of the most vibrant streets in Montpelier is Picton Street, named after Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton, who fought in the Napoleonic Wars and who became famous for fending off a military mutiny in the late 18th century.
The area was also historically important during the English Civil War. There used to be an old farmhouse on Ashley Hill that was used as the local headquarters of General Fairfax and General Cromwell during the war. They based themselves here before leading an assault on Bristol, which was at that time held by Royalists, in 1645.
Shopping in Montpelier
There are a few good shops in Montpelier, most of which are on Picton Street. These include Radford Mill Farm Shop, which has been operating for decades. It specialises in whole foods and organic vegetables, and it’s a great place to shop for all your local, ethically sourced foods.
C & T Licata & Son is an Italian deli that has also been around for many years. It is located on Picton Street, and good food and wine are sold in the delicatessen.
There is also a Tesco Express in Montpelier and a small high street near the end of Picton Street where you will find a convenience store and a few other small shops. For larger shops, central Bristol is only minutes away.
And then of course there’s Stokes Croft and Cheltenham road on the western border of Montpellier with their countless independent shops and cafes.
Montpelier Bars and Restaurants
Cafes, bars and restaurants are where Montpelier comes into its own. There are plenty to choose from, most of which are independently run.
The Bristolian Café is one of the most well-known cafes in the area. This is located at the top of Picton Street, and it is a great choice for grabbing a bite to eat at any time of the day. It is also known for its excellent brunches.
The Old England is one of the most popular pubs in Montpelier. Gigs are held here most weeks, and there is an upstairs games room complete with a couple of pool tables. There is also a pleasant beer terrace that is popular in the summer. This is apparently the only pub to have full-sized cricket practice nets on its grounds. Amazingly, these were originally put up for W. G. Grace, who used to practice here at the weekends.
Café Kino is right in the bottom corner of Montpelier on Stokes Croft. This popular vegan cafe sells a wide range of delicious local and organic food as well as tea and coffee. It also stocks a range of local beers, ciders and wines.
The Playground is located on St Nicholas Street. It is a combination of artisanal bakery, coffee shop and cocktail bar where you can also enjoy a craft beer and play a board game.
There are plenty of other places to visit in Montpelier, including Oowee Diner, Rice and Things and The Cadbury pub, which has a great little beer garden.
Other Montpelier Attractions and Places of Interest
There is loads to see and do in Montpelier. One of the first things you’ll notice is the street art. The Silent Hobo mural at Montpelier Station is one of the most well-known murals in Bristol.
On one of the buildings on Ashley Road, you will see a plaque with the inscription stating that the actor Sir Henry Irving used to live there. Henry Irving was a famous actor back in his day, and apparently Bram Stoker based the character of Dracula on him.
Montpelier Park is a pleasant green space to enjoy. While you are here, look out for the Rainbow Wall, which bricks painted in different colours. You might also want to stroll around Albany Green.
The Charley Box is an interesting feature of Montpelier. Bristol did not have its own police force until 1836, and before this, a nightwatchman – a Charley – was employed. He had the power to arrest troublemakers and keep them in the Charley Box, and the box is still on Picton Street. You can see two cells inside, and one still has a manacle attached to the wall.